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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  June 19, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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questions about the russia investigation. stopping the senate, right now democrats are ramping up the fight against health care trying to bring the senate to a grinding halt. look for republicans to end the secrecy surrounding efforts to repeal and replace obamacare. russian jet threat, moscow warns it will consider u.s. and coalition aircraft as targets in an angry response to the downing of the syrian war plane. what's the pentagon doing tonight to avoid a dangerous new conflict with the kremlin? and freed american dies. a college student who spent more than a year in a north korean prison dies just days after returning home in a coma. tonight, oto warmbier's parents are blasting the tortuous mistreatment of his son by kim jong-un's regime. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in ""the situation room"."
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>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> we are following the breaking news in the trump russia investigation. tonight the white house is dangling the possibility that the president will finally reveal if there are oval office recordings by the end of this week. house investigators have asked the administration to turnover any tapes of mr. trump's conversations with fired fbi director james comey by friday. they are looking into comey's claim that the president asked him to end his investigation of ousted national security advisor michael flynn. also tonight, new indications that flynn may have failed to disclose yet another overseas trip related to russia when he replied to renew security last year. they are requesting documents about a trip flynn to the middle east in the summer of 2015 to pursue a joint u.s.-russian business venture to develop nuclear facilities in saudi arabia. also breaking this hour, a dramatic new move by democrats
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to protest the republican secretive process to overhaul health care. democrats launching a talk-a-thon on the senate floor tonight to bring the work of the chamber to a halt. and russia is ramping up its rhetoric against u.s. actions in syria, threatening to consider coalition aircraft including u.s. aircraft as targets. the kremlin responding to an american fighter jet shooting down a syrian war plane that dropped bombs on forces allied with the united states. this hour, i'll talk about those stories and more with former defense secretary in washington veteran leon panetta. and our correspondents and specialists are also standing by. first, let's go to cnn's bright todd with another breaking story, the death of the young american who was held prisoner by north korea for almost a year and a half. brian, what can you tell us? >> wolf just a short time ago, oto warmbier's parents announced he died this afternoon, he passed away a little less than
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thour hours ago surrounded by his family. the death comes at a time when tensions between the north korea and the united states have rarely been higher. the u.s. is watching how they are going to respond. by the time oto warmbier was in the u.s. hospital, doctors said his condition was dire. >> no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands, or awareness of his surroundings. he has not spoken. he has not engaged in any purposeful movements or behaviors. >> tonight, warmbier's parents say their son has, quote, completed his journey home, that oto warmbier died today at 2:20 p.m. eastern time. the family says when he arrived in cincinnati last week in a vegetative state, warmbier's face looked anguished, but within a day they say his face changed. he was at peace, they say. warmbier's doctors told reporters they had discovered he had lost much of his brain tissue due to cardiopulmonary arrest and the two brain scans
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sent by the north koreans suggested he'd been in a vegetative state for at least 14 months. >> the early est images are dated april 2016. based upon our analysis of those images, the brain injury likely occurred in the proceeding weeks. >> experts say while they are surprised north korea would allow an american being held to reach such critical condition, they say mistreatment in north korean jails is not uncommon. >> we know that they applied very brutal treatment, torture, beating, rain to their own people and also to foreigners who are held in custody. >> all of a sudden he was thrown into this hell hole. so, anything is possible. he could have suffered shock when he was sentenced to hard labor. he could have been beaten. he could have tried to take his own life. whatever the circumstances, it is likely the result of the fact that the north koreans put him in this situation.
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>> there are key questions still unanswered tonight after warmbier's delgt. why did kim's regime keep warmbier's condition a secret for so long? >> perhaps they waited, hoping that he would come out of the coma. he didn't. eventually they panicked. >> and how might the united states retaliate for the death of this 22-year-old university of virginia student who the north koreans had sentenced to hard labor for allegedly pulling down a propaganda banner in a hotel? >> the one reason to be careful about military retaliation is the fact that north korea now has missiles and nuclear weapons that could strike japan and korea and potentially threaten the united states. the other reason is there are other americans who are hostages and in prison who we also want to get out. >> warmbier's family said today, quote, the awful tortuous mistreatment our son received at the hands of north korea ensured no other out come was possible
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beyond the sad one we experienced today, end quote. when we call the north korean mission to the u.n. a few minutes ago to respond to that, they hung up on us. wolf? >> brian, this comes, what, just a couple days after an incident at john f. kennedy airport in new york between homeland security officials at a north korean delegation, right? >> that's right, wolf. this happened on friday. homeland security officials confiscated at least one package that the north korean delegation was carrying as they were about to leave new york. it was a physical confrontation as the north koreans tried to grab their package back. the north koreans called that a mugging. they say they initiated the confrontation. >> all right, thank you, brian todd reporting fors us. new reaction tonight from president trump to the death of oto warmbier. let's bring in senior white house reporter jim accosta. the president has just reacted. >> that's right, wolf. the president just reacted a few minutes ago. he reacted to the passing of oto
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warmbier, he made the comments on camera a short while ago. here's what he had to say. >> pass on word that oto warmbier has just passed away. he spent a year and a half in north korea, a lot of bad things happened. but at least we got him home to be with his parents. they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition, but he just passed away a little while ago. it's a brutal regime, and we'll be able to 457handle it. >> we should also point out the president offered his condolences to the family of oto warmbier. at the end of that statement the president uses tough language saying it deepened my determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the
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rule of law or basic human decency. he goes on to say the u.s. condemns the brutality of the north korean regime. the president not mixing any words there in terms of his reaction to the death of oto warmbier. they are certainly feeling the impact of this over at the white house tonight, would have. >> they certainly are a very strong statement from the president, his remarks as well. let's turn to another issue that i understand you're doing some reporting on the future of sean spicer and his briefing at the white house. what are you learning? >> that's right, wolf. we have that very strange briefing earlier today, a briefing that was held in the white house briefing room. yet it was off camera, there was no audio allowed. we couldn't even record it to use afterwards. those are the kinds of restrictions that were placed on us today when we were trying to ask a lot of very difficult important questions about the russia investigation and so on. but putting that aside, wolf, what we have learned, we have been able to confirm that sean spicer, the white house press secretary, is under consideration for a different
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role inside the west wing. that would obviously free up his position of white house press secretary to go to somebody else. of course, we have heard this kind of palace intrigue in the weeks past and the months have been going on during the course of this administration, and those changes have not come to pass. rumors about reince priebus, the white house press secretary, rumors about sean spicer himself, so, we want to add that caution. but we do understand that this is being discussed at some fairly high levels inside the west wing. and obviously if the white house press secretary job comes open, there is going to be a lot of speculation as to who might take that job on as this is a pretty challenging administration to do that sort of job for, wolf. >> certainly is, a really, really tough job indeed. thanks very much, jim accosta over at the white house. now to the russia investigation as we await confirmation of any possible white house tapes. we are getting mixed messages from the president's legal team about whether the special counsel robert mueller is
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focusing in on the president right now. let's bring in our justice correspondent jessica snyder working the story for us. jessica, the president and his lawyers seem to be contradicting themselves. >> they do, bowolf. the question is simple. is president trump under investigation? the president seemed to say yes in a tweet on friday, but when his lawyer was dispatched to make the rounds on television over the weekend and again today, his message was a bit mixed. tonight conflicting answers from president trump's legal team to questions about whether or not the president is under investigation, he tweeted this friday. i am being investigated for firing the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director. witch hunt. one of the president's lawyers jay sekulo making the rounds on sunday talk shows say saying to jake tapper this. >> let me be clear, the president is not under investigation. >> so, the president said i am under investigation even though he isn't under investigation? >> that response on social media
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was in response to the washington post piece. it's that simple. the president is not under investigation. >> but he told fox news this. >> so, he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general, deputy attorney general recommended him to take. >> you've now said he is being investigated -- >> no, he's not being investigated. >> you just said he's being investigated. >> today yet another response. sekulo on cnn criticizing the washington post using five anonymous sources to back up special counsel robert mueller was investigating the president for obstruction of justice in the firing of fbi director james comey. >> those reports in the washington post were false. the legal team has not been notified of investigation -- >> just because you haven't been notified -- >> we are not under investigation. >> there is no duty to inform you. >> no duty to tell in the sense of an obligation to tell, bull you know how it works in washington. if you were a target if you were being investigated, you would be told really quickly into the investigation process.
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>> the white house is also being elusive about the existence of any tapes from inside the oval office. sean spicer said the president could have an answer by the end of this week. friday is the deadline for the white house to turn those tapes over to the house intelligence committee if they exist. the committee has also requested comey's memos on his conversations with the president by the end of the week. >> one way or another we need to get an answer. and if we can't get an answer, weeg l we'll ultimately need to subpoena those potential documents to make sure that we have them. >> and jared kushner could be changing his legal team since his lawyer was a partner with robert mueller at a d.c. law firm before mueller became special counsel. kushner's attorney issued this statement. after the appointment of our former partner robert mueller as special counsel, we advised mr. kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel. and there are still questions about deputy attorney general rod rosenstein's role and whether he might recuse himself
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if robert mueller's investigation includes to expand the firing of james comey. the white house today would only state that the president has confidence in every person who served in the administration, even though the question was specifically about rosenstein. also this week, obama homeland security secretary jay johnson, he will testify publicly before the house intelligence committee and, wolf, that is on wednesday. >> he testified behind closed doors the other day, but now in public. we'll monitor that for our viewers as well. jessica, thanks very much. jessica snyder reporting. let's get all the breaking news we're following. leon panetta is joining us. former cia director under president obama. he also served as chief of staff to president clinton. mr. secretary, thanks for joining us. >> nice to be with you, wolf. >> i want to get through a lot of the major news we're following right now, including an american citizen who has lost his life, a young student from the university of virginia, as a result of the treatment by the north koreans. how should the trump
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administration respond to this? >> it's obviously a very tragic moment for the family and for our country. a brutal regime i think is responsible for what happened to this individual. and i think the administration has to respond forcefully. i know the president indicated that we would respond. i think that's good. i think we do need to file a formal protest with the north koreans demanding that we find out what the circumstances were for what happened with this individual in prison. clearly that's where the damage was done. we need to find out why that happened, and then take appropriate action against that government. >> appropriate action, respond forcefully, it sounds ominous, mr. secretary. you know there are three other americans who are also still being held by the north koreans
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right now. we're just putting their pictures up on the screen. when you say respond forcefully, besides issuing a protest through the swedish embassy in pyongyang which represents u.s. diplomatic interests from time to time, what does that mean? >> well, there are a number of options that i think can be looked at. obviously there are diplomatic options involving, as i said, a protest and condemnation. secondly, i think the idea of ratcheting up sanctions against north korea regime. we have sanctions in place, very frankly, they could be enforced in a more vigorous way by ourselves as well as the chinese. going to china to, again, indicate that this is not acceptable, and that the chinese government needs to do what's necessary here to find out exactly what happened. and in addition to that, adding
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other pressures in terms of indicating that we are going to continue to build up our strength in that region in order to make clear to the north koreans that we are not going to stand by while they do this to our citizens, and we're not going to stand by while they continue to test their missiles and test their nuclear weapons. that's unacceptable. >> as you know, the warmbier family and our hearts go out to them, our deepest condolences go out to them. they were critical of the way the obama administration handled this. he was held 17 months by the north koreans. were mistakes made? >> well, you know, i don't know -- i'm not sure that anyone outside of the administration really knows just exactly what steps were taken. but the problem is with north korea that unless you're putting constant pressure on them,
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unless you're making very clear to them how seriously we consider these kinds of incidents to be, then these things tend to drag on, and that's i'm afraid what happened here. >> let's turn to the pressure facing the president on the russia investigation right now. as you know, president trump's lawyer, personal lawyer, jay sekula, the president was only following the advice of his justice department by firing james comey, the fbi director, and that the move was within his constitutional authority. but has the president already contradicted that defense with his own words? >> you know, it's a little hard to tell just exactly what was being debated over the weekend. i mean, the reality is that this attorney does not have and does not know whether or not the
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president is under investigation. and for that matter, i guess the president doesn't know that to be the case either. there's only one person that really knows that issue, and that's the special counsel. and clearly as a result of the testimony on the hill, as a result of some of the other reports that have been done, there's no question in my mind that at some point the special counsel is going to investigate the issue of whether or not there was an attempt to interfere with an investigation. >> let's move to another important issue right now that affects millions and millions of americans. senate democrats are bringing the chamber, the senate chamber to a halt right now to protest the closed door work of the republican health care bill. is that escalation smart politically right now? >> wolf, this is a moment when,
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you know, you wonder why there are angry and frustrated people in this country who look to washington and see very little getting done. and, you know, we have -- there's no question we have a dysfunctional congress. i think to some extent we have a dysfunctional presidency as well at this moment in time. and i think everything, everything that can be done to try to put pressure on both republicans and democrats to work together to try to resolve these key issues, particularly on health care, is something that ought to be done now. i know the democrats have to fight the republicans. i know the republicans are doing their thing to try to keep this within the party. but i really think that both parties need to look at the larger picture here, which is that literally the united states of america will be affected by what they do, and they can't do
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this in secret and they can't do this simply by fighting each other over these kinds of issues. they've got to learn to work together to do what's right for our country. >> that's the way things will get done, on a more bipartisan way if it's possible to get back to that track. another issue, and i want you to put your hat on as a former defense secretary of the united states, mr. secretary, this awful collision in recent days between the uss fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer, a billion dollar ship and a merchant ship that killed seven u.s. sailors. for those of us who used to be pentagon correspondents, i was there when they commissioned those destroyers. this is one of the best the u.s. has. now these seven american sailors are dead. what went wrong possibly? >> well, there's no question, wolf, that human fault was
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involved here. this would not happen were it not for somebody's fault. now, whether it lies with that vessel that hit the destroyer or whether it lies with the destroyer remains to be found out. but make no mistake about it, this kind of collision should not happen. i don't think there's any question that it will be fully investigated. the problem is that we've lost lives, and those lives were lost because somebody who was responsible did not accept that responsibility. so, there's fault here. there's human fault here. we'll find out exactly where that lies in the investigation that i'm sure will follow-up on this tragic incident. >> very tragic incident and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those seven u.s. sailors who are now dead. mr. secretary, there's more we need to discuss, including escalating tension right now
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over the skies of syria as the u.s. downs a syrian war plane and the russians are now threatening retaliation. stay with us. l activities listed on our app. or that you could book them right from your phone. a few weeks ago, you still didn't know if you were gonna go. now the only thing you don't know, is why it took you so long to come here. expedia. everything in one place, so you can travel the world better.
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defense secretary leon panetta. we are following the breaking news. president trump now slamming what he calls a brutal north korean regime after the death of an american prisoner returned to the united states in a coma. secretary panetta, i want you to stand by because i want to get an update on a new russian threat against u.s. and coalition aircraft flying overseer i can't. let's go to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr following the story for us. barbara, what is the very latest? >> reporter: wolf, the russians are saying the u.s. engaged in an act of aggression.
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the u.s. says it's taking all due precautions against the russians. u.s. pilots flying overseer i can't now looking on the look out for russian airplanes or missile threats following a u.s. shoot down by a navy of a super hornet of a syrian war plane. this because the kremlin threatened that any u.s. war plane operating in certain areas of syria would be considered a threat. when the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was asked if he was confident that russia would not shoot down a u.s. war plane, the answer was carefully worded. >> i'm confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the russian federation operation center and i'm also confident that our forces have the capability of to take care of themselves. >> reporter: defense secretary james mattis taking the threat seriously. his spokesperson issuing a statement. as a result of recent encounters involving pro syrian regime and russian forces, we have taken
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prudent measures to reposition aircraft overseer i can't. the pentagon won't offer details, but the goal is clear. get u.s.-backed ground forces to push isis out. >> they are sending warnings to the syrians, to the iranians and to the russians that this offensive must be the top priority and it cannot be hindered. >> reporter: when the syrian war plane attacked those u.s.-backed forces on the ground, the u.s. reacted. it began sunday at 4:30 p.m. pro-syrian regime forces attacked the u.s.-backed fighters near the city, a key area on the way to the isis capital. driving them from their fighting position, u.s. aircraft flew in launching flares to scare off the pro assad unit. the u.s. also contacted the russians to try to stop the fighting. at 6:43 p.m., a syrian s. u22
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dropped bombs near the u.s.-backed fighters. it was immediately shot down. the coalition said by that u.s. navy aircraft as a matter of self-defense. and now a full core press on by the pentagon to talk to the russians to try and dee escalate this whole situation so nothing spirals out of control. wolf? >> it's a dangerous situation indeed. barbara starr at the opponent gone, thanks very much. i want to bring back the former defense secretary, leon panetta. mr. sixth, senator chris murphy, he tweeted this earlier. let me just read it to you. four direct engage. s with syria, iran, russia in 45 days, trump is quietly starting a new war congress has not declared red a ert will. do you think that is a family assessment of this escalation? >> well, i think he's got to look at the actual situation as it took place. it certainly sounds to me like
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self-defense, and self-defense is a pretty important principle when it comes to combat. and the reality is we have forces on the ground. we are working with forces that we support there to try to fight isis and to try to remove them from raka. it looks clearly, at least from what has been told here, that the syrian fighter went after those forces, attacked those forces. and the response was one of self-defense, to bring it down. it is certainly an act that raises the tensions in that area. and, look, this is a chaotic situation. you've got the russians. you've got the syrians. you've got iran. you've got turkey. you've got the united states. you've got other countries that are involved there. you've got other forces that are involved there. there is a tremendous amount of
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deconfliction that has to go on there. it's hit and miss. what goes on here probably takes this into a new chapter in terms of whether or not all of these forces that are engaging in syria can develop effective ways of trying to avoid some kind of direct conflict between those forces. >> yeah, it's been many, many years since u.s. war planes have engaged in air to air combat, a war plane from another nation. but here's a sense, very sensiti sensitive issue that is emerging. how concerned are you about the rhetoric now from russia, that any u.s. or coalition plane flying overseer i can't potentially could be considered a target? >> i think we have to obviously treat that seriously, but, you know, the fact is we were willing to shoot down a syrian plane that was attacking our forces. that's important to remember,
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that the united states is not simply going to stand by and let that happen. i think we do have to be firm with the russians, but i also think that we have to try to work to develop a process of de-conflicting so these incidents will not happen. this is war. we all have to recognize that there is a war going on in syria that involves a number of countries and a number of soldiers from different countries that are in conflict. i'm surprised, frankly, that something like this has not happened before up to this point. but it does tell us that the cause of the seriousness of the conflict that is going on, we have to be very firm about protecting our forces. we have to be very firm with the russians, that they have to work with us to try to deconflict. >> leon panetta, thanks so much for joining us. >> good to be with you, wolf.
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>> just ahead, is he or isn't he under investigation? we'll have more on the conflicting and rather confusing messages coming in from the president and his lawyers. and could the u.s. have done more to get otto warmbier out of north korea before it was too late to prevent his death? it's just that your friend daryl here is supposed to be live streaming the wedding and he's not getting any service. i missed, like, the whole thing. what? and i just got an unlimited plan. it's the right plan, wrong network. you see, verizon has the largest, most reliable 4g lte network in america. it's built to work better in cities. tell you what, just use mine. thanks. no problem. all right, let's go live. say hi to everybody who wasn't invited! (vo) when it really, really matters, you need the best network and the best unlimited. just $45 per line for four lines.
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we're following the breaking news including the death of the american student otto warmbier
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who was released by north korea with severe brain damage after 17 months in custody. also tonight, mixed signals from president trump and his personal lawyer on whether or not the president is under investigation right now. mr. trump tweeted that he is, but his lauwyer appearing on cn saying the president is not under investigation. let's dig deep with our lan lifts. jay sekulow, one of the private attorneys, making the case the president is not under investigation, by robert mueller the special counsel, many tv appearances yesterday that continued this morning. clearly the president wants him on tv. >> well, and you can argue that by muddying the waters, which is i think what he did, that he helped the president because he did muddy the waters. and, you know, law enforcement sources are telling cnn and evan perez in particular, that the special counsel is gathering information on the president and
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considering whether there is evidence to launch a full-scale investigation. so, you know, you can parse your words anyway you want, but he is doing his research and he's doing his homework and it doesn't matter what you call it. >> lawyeruri, you're our justic department lawyer. is there any way to know whether the president is under investigation by mueller? >> no, not necessarily. in fact, the u.s. attorneys manual which governs justice department lawyers says explicitly that you're not supposed to contact a target of an investigation because, think about it, it could destroy the evidence before the investigation has ever really got off the ground. so, this idea that mueller would reach out to sekulow and say, by the way, the president isn't under investigation seems way too premature. >> we may, repeat may, rebecca,
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get word by the house the end of this week possibly if there are tapes, tape recordings of the president's conversations with the fired fbi director james comey. why is it taking so long to get -- to set the record straight? are there recordings or aren't there record ings? >> well, we don't know for sure, wolf. the president suggested he wanted to leave all of us in suspense. the truth might be that there aren't any tapes at all and he just doesn't want to fess up to that because he suggested as a threat to james comey there were tapes of their conversations. he might be worried whether it would make him look bad if there weren't tapes. it might be more of just a plain legal explanation, the white house maybe needs to get their things together to get prepared. they have a request from the house intelligence committee for any tapes if they do exist. but what's interesting, an interesting sort of clue as to whether there might be any tapes, is when "wall street journal" through a foia request
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suggested from the secret service any and all recordings in the white house. and the secret service in the past has been the one to run these recordings for past presidents and they said they didn't have any tapes. so, that could be a hint of where this is going. >> the president also hinted we don't exactly know what he meant. he said you will be disappointed when he said when we find out if there are or are not tapes. do you remember that, jackie? you know, it was very strange today, you heard our jim accosta, other reporters, they went to the briefing room in the west wing of the white house, not into somebody's office, not into a private area, but the briefing room where all of our viewers do, a lot of tv cameras there, and sean spicer had his daily briefing, but they didn't allow the american public to see it live. it would have aired on cnn, on fox news, on msnbc. all of us would have taken it live, but the white house said, no cameras, no audio. you can have a pen and a piece of paper. take notes, that's it. what is going on? >> one of the things the white
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house has tried to explain is they don't like to get in the president's way when the president is going to have remarks that day. that aside, this is unusual. this is something that, you know, should be questioned because it's important for the american people to see this. now, another theory is maybe they don't want the president to see it because he is someone who watches a lot of television and has had some comments about some of the -- i venture to say performances of his press secretary. that said, we don't know that that's the case. it's just a theory. >> they are clearly experimenting with what they do. >> right. >> and there was chatter today that perhaps they were looking for a different role for sean spicer. i don't know this to be the case, but, you know, their communications director resigned so maybe sean would take over some of those responsibilities and that perhaps they'd have somebody else at the podium. but maybe they don't want somebody at the podium every day. we've talked around and around this for a very long time and maybe the president doesn't
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believe that it does him any good and that they don't want the russia story front and center. and they know that journalists are going to ask about the russia story. >> and the tweets speak for them self. >> right. >> the president not necessarily always -- one tweet did not speak for itself when he said i'm under investigation. i spent seven years as a white house correspondent. and when the press secretary goes into the briefing room, there is a briefing, it's on camera. when he wants to do a private gaggle, that's in the press secretary's office. he meets with reporters, speaks to them on background, gives them some information about the president's schedule, what the president is doing. this is highly extraordinary. >> it is extraordinary, wolf. and it's so important to have these briefings, to have an opportunity for reporters in front of the entire country and the american public to be able to ask these questions of the press secretary and push back on some of the things the press secretary is saying. the white house is trying to limit those opportunities. i can't think of one that was last done if it's ever been
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done. this might actually be unprecedented. >> it's interesting. they watch those sean spicer briefings, sara huckabee briefings. they were denied that opportunity. >> and you've had melissa mccarthy out there making fun of you, you might also want a different kind of job, to be quite honest. >> good point, too. >> he's had a very tough time of it and maybe, maybe the president wants to take him off the podium. that could be. but also if you're sean, maybe you want to find something else. >> stand by because there's more breaking news we're following, an american student just released by north korea now unfortunately has died. so, what caused this severe brain damage? your joints... or your digestion... so why wouldn't you take something for the most important part of you... your brain. with an ingredient originally found in jellyfish, prevagen is now the number one selling brain health supplement in drug stores nationwide.
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breaking news tonight, an american student released by north korea has now died, according to his family. otto warmbier arrived in ohio by air ambulance last week suffering severe brain damage after being held for 17 months by the kim jong-un regime. let's dig deeper with our military and diplomatic analyst retired rear admiral and chief correspondent jim chute ore. senator mccain just issued a statement, very brief. quote, let us state the facts plainly. otto warmbier, an american citizen, was murdered by the kim jong-un
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>> well, i think they are thinking that through right now, wolf. there are a range of options they could take. it's paramount that they think about this is proportionality. remember, we have three americans being detained there. you want to be ever mindful of their faces as you make the decisions. certainly there's diplomatic options. you could enact more or more aggressive sanctions unilaterally by the united states. you could do something more to beef up your military response. this is unacceptable. i agree with senator mccain, this is murder. that's exactly how it should be phrased. >> you've been talking to a lot of officials, jim. north koreans have like a million-man army north of the dmz facing 15, 20 million citizens 20 miles below in seoul. >> there are options. the trouble is, you don't know which are going to work. they are not great options.
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previous administrations, republican and democrats in the same situations have tried the same negotiations. they've sent bill clinton, bill richardson, the assumption being that that treatment at that level of a senior leader gives respect to the north korean regime and that's led to good results. the fact is, as a country, the u.s. needs a strategy because this is not a one-off. this is a north korean policy to take foreigners, including americans, and this is not by accident that they say he stole a poster. it was a show trial. they take americans as bargaining chips in this case with the worst outcome unimaginable for the country. the u.s. needs a strategy but the options are all difficult. >> the one thing i could add, i agree completely. we could continue to try to ratchet up international pressure. this is another example of the brutality of this regime and
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another reason why -- underscoring why it's important to get them more coalesced. >> north korea is oddly sensitive to how its human rights regime or record, i should say, is seen by the word because oftentimes when at the u.n., for instance, you've had reports that show the horrible human rights records they have. north korea is sensitive to that, almost to a degree you wouldn't expect. international pressure does have a potential. >> you saw the criticism from the family of the obama administration in dealing with this crisis over these months. i think you were the state department spokesperson during that time. looking back, was there anything that the u.s. could have done to save this young student's life? >> my heart goes out to the family and i understand the pain a they're suffering and the grief is unspeakable today. my sympathies are with them. i understand their frustration. we understood their frustration at the time when he was detained and we couldn't get him out. all i could tell you, and i know
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this for a fact, secretary kerry worked this very hard. there wasn't a single conversation that he had with his chinese counterpart where he didn't bring up otto by name and how he talked about how important it was to get him and the other americans home. we worked it as hard as we could. it didn't bring him home and certainly everybody had regrets about that. >> yeah, it's a very sad situation. once again, our hearts go out to the warmbier family. >> absolutely. >> guys, stay with us. don't go too far away. we have much more coming up, including senate democrats that are ready to take very dramatic action to protest the secrecy surrounding the republican health care bill. hands-on-deck , rain, hail, shine, and family gatherings galore. behr premium semi-transparent number one rated stain. rich, lasting color that weathers it all. only at the home depot.
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new partisan maneuvers in iraq over health care as senate tries to bring it to a halt. republicans are keeping many members in the dark. let's go to our congressional correspondent phil mattingly up on the hill. phil, what's happening right now? >> reporter: if you look at the senate floor, you see a familiar sight over the coming days. senate democrats are bringing light to a process that largely up to this point has taken it entirely into the dark. several senate democrats coming to the floor trying to figure out a way to get the bill, the senate republican health care bill referred to committees. that would slow the process down. mitch mcconnell has stopped them each time. the reality is, there are no plans to send these bills to committee. as it stands now, it's to have a vote on this bill next week.
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here's the one major hold-up. republicans don't yet have a bill. there are several key components that haven't been agreed to yet. the party is very ideologically divided when it comes to health care. in public, senate democrats railing against this process, railing against a bill they haven't seen and trying to do anything they can to slow things up as republicans prepare for a vote. again, the one major outstanding issue -- and this is about as big as it gets, they don't have a bill yet. it is taking mace. as long as it does, senate democrats have made it clear they will try to slow up the pros is he and try to bring some attention to it. they believe and also activists outside of the democratic party believe there hasn't been enough attention paid to it. they believe it would bring on the type of outside pressure that could convince republican senators to not vote for this. they need at least 50 of the 52 republicans in their conference to pass this vote, a very slim margin of error.
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they believe any pressure they can put on this might help. >> if it's a 50/50 vote, the vice president can become the president and break that tie. that's it for me. thank you for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. "outfront" next, breaking news, fired national security adviser michael flynn under new scrutiny tonight, failing to disclose a $100 billion deal he was working on with the russians. plus, a major staff shake-up possibly coming to the white house. is sean spicer out? and new details about the collision at sea that killed seven american sailors. how does a high-tech navy destroyer and a massive cargo ship collide in let's go "outfront." good evening, i'm erin burnett. "outfront" tonight, a $100 billion russia bill. cnn is learning tonight that the fired national security adviser michael flynn is under investigation tonight over whether he misled government officials on


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